planet-pregnancy

Planet Pregnancy

Linda Oatman High

Sahara’s life is changed in a heart beat

For sixteen-year-old Sahara, “life and death and everything in between” depends on the color of a little stick. She waits three long minutes, praying to Jesus, Mary, and all the saints that the stick will turn blue, meaning she isn’t pregnant. Instead, the stick turns pink and Sahara’s life is changed in a heart beat. Only last week, she was voted the Dixie Queen at school, and wore a sequined gown and a tiara. She was saving money to buy a car, and dreamed of driving to Hollywood or Dollywood. Suddenly, Sahara’s life before the stick turned pink seems to belong to another girl. She feels as if she no longer lives on earth, but on another planet. Sahara faces her crisis alone, afraid to tell her mother, afraid to tell her sister, and afraid to tell her friends. After all, what would people in her small Texas town think of her? As her sister once told her, “Good girls keep their legs together.” One thing’s for sure. She won’t tell Dustin, her total loser of an ex-boyfriend. She wants him out of her life for good. And so Sahara keeps her pregnancy a secret, as she struggles with three choices: “keep, give away, or lose.” With heartfelt honesty and a touch of sardonic humor, Linda Oatman High’s novel in free verse takes readers inside the mind of a young woman struggling to survive an alien world that she calls Planet Pregnancy.


  • Ages: 11 and up
  • Grades: 5 and up
  • Pages: 238

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Recent Reviews

True to the teen’s voice, the gripping narrative, written in very short lines of free verse with occasional rhyme, makes for a roller-coaster read.

—Booklist

When 16-year-old Sahara, the one-time Dixie Queen in her small West Texas town, discovers that she is pregnant, she feels like the one and only/ lonely resident/ of Planet Pregnancy and fleetingly considers adoption and abortion, but basically can’t bring herself to face facts. In her sixth month, she realizes, It’s kind of late/ in the pregnancy, and decides to have the baby, although she still doesn’t tell anyone yet. Her lack of maturity will hit readers hard: she invents a date-rape story to tell her mother, complains about her looks and, even at the end of the book, when she falls in love with her newborn, seems ill prepared for what’s ahead. Although High (The Girl on the High-Diving Horse) works in contemporary references, e.g., to the safe haven law allowing new parents to surrender infants safely, she mostly sticks to well-trod territory. The choice of a verse format, while attention- getting, results in some awkward passages. Rhyme schemes, for example, sometimes dictate content, as when her orthodontist notices her weight gain: Must be that new pizza/ place: Carini./ Better watch out,/ or you won’t fit into/ a bikini!

—Publishers Weekly

‘I peek,/ and the line/ on the stick/ is pink.’ And that’s when the life of sixteen-year-old Sahara changes utterly, as she’s faced with the most important decision she’s ever had to make: is she going to keep the baby? Keeping her pregnancy secret initially, Sahara mulls over the issues privately, coming close to making appointments for an abortion but never going through with it. As time passes and she gets bigger, she finally breaks the news to her mother (after initially trying to distract Mom with a fake story about date rape) and her supportive best friend, but she’s still wondering whether she’s going to raise her child up until the very moment her baby makes an entrance into the world. There’s a lot of believability in the story of a teenager who makes a decision by not making a decision, and who spends most of her pregnancy in denial and hiding rather than receiving support and prenatal care. Sahara’s narration unfolds in swingy short-lined verse that sometimes finds patterns in end rhymes, sometimes in internal rhyme, and sometimes just in consonance, resulting in rap-like shifts and riffs that should convert challengingly but interestingly to reading aloud. The close rhymes are often jingly and contrived, though (If you’re a mom/ can you still/ go to the prom?); Sahara herself isn’t particularly sympathetic, aside from her situation, in her blameshifting and her shallow resentments, and since her growth and change are largely confined to her uterus, the story lacks development. Readers may still be drawn to the personal account, though, and the pulsing rhythms may make for lively performance or reader’s theater.

—Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books

This short book in poetry format follows the pregnancy of 16-year-old Sahara as she goes from feeling depressed and alone to feeling depressed and having no choice but to share her burden with her unsupportive family. Don’t think Juno (from the hit 2007 film) or Bobby (from Angela Johnson’s The First Part Last); Sahara is an uninspiring teen with a bemoaning attitude, a deep-grained refusal to take on responsibility, a lack of foresight, and a dearth of empathy. Perhaps due to the poetry not being very poetic–rather, prose snippets that occasionally hit a rhythm or poetic truth–none of the characters are particularly well developed and some sections drag on and on after the emotion has already been thoroughly explored. However, this realistic cautionary tale does address many difficult issues without overt judgment: Sahara’s sexual activity, the challenge to her pro-life upbringing, the meaning of motherhood, and the teen father’s role.

—School Library Journal

As Linda Oatman High’s Planet Pregnancy (Front St, 2008) opens, Sahara, 16, is staring at a pregnancy test stick, …holding my breath/because life/and death/and everything/in-between/depends/on a stick/dipped/for less than/ten seconds/in a dish/of pee. Sahara hides her pregnancy, wavering between abortion and delivery until it’s too late to choose. The author gives Sahara the authentic inner voice of a young girl who makes a mistake and is nearly overwhelmed by its consequences. Her growing maturity shows in small details woven into the intermittently rhyming, staccato verse, such as her gradual acceptance of the developing child, which she first refers to as The Egg, The Fetus, The Kid, and finally my baby. High avoids a tidy happy ending, opting to let Sahara’s continuing naïveté and lack of preparedness show even on the final page, making Planet Pregnancy useful in frank discussions regarding teen pregnancy and motherhood.

—School Library Journal/Curriculum Connections

Honors for Planet Pregnancy

  • Quick Picks for Reluctant Young Adult Readers—YALSA/ALA
  • 08-09 Top 10 PSLA

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